Planned Parenthood wants abortions for everyone! Well, not exactly.
But that is what conservatives (persistently riled up since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973) would have the world believe, says Dianne Luby, CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM).
"That decision got the opposition mobilized, in a big way," she says. "Activists came up with language like 'pro-life,' and got a full head of steam about it. PPLM has been around for 81 years. We've always been more about pregnancy prevention and family planning, but after Roe, the predominate stories were all about abortion. We've been branded by zealots for one surgical procedure rather than for the full range of what we do."
So Luby and the rest of the PPLM team have set out to re-brand the organization, hoping to associate the name "Planned Parenthood" with expertise in sexual health, rather than in pregnancy termination and all of the extremist scare tactics and religious bandying that accompany the "pro-life" agenda. In addition to promoting online health tools — such as the MyMethod birth-control advisor and an STI risk-assessment tool — PPLM is embracing a "social media strategy," using networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook, viral videos, blogs, and RSS feeds to try and reach out to Massachusetts youth and bridge the gap between hyper-hormonal teenage sexuality and responsible pregnancy and disease-prevention tactics.
"We want to start changing the entire conversation that's out there, and start acting more like sexual health matters as much as nutrition health and cardiac health," says Luby. "One in four adolescent girls has a sexually transmitted infection. Sexual health should matter."
But "re-brand?" That sounds like some shallow marketing ploy. Ludy is adamant that the organization wants to be more appealing to more young people, in the interest of sexual health and safety. "I think that sometimes when people say "re-branding" it sounds gimmicky," she says, "but, in this case, it's really about public awareness. [Sexual health] is a huge public-health issue, and in this country we sweep education under the rug, while TV and radio are filled with sexual images. We're trying to address these cultural contradictions."
For more information, visit pplm.org.